Home Mind & Brain Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic? The Truth Behind the Debilitating Illness

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic? The Truth Behind the Debilitating Illness

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Those with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) often fear the ever-lingering question: is Alzheimer’s genetic? For caretakers and family members, watching a loved one in the grips of AD can be a drawn-out, gut-wrenching struggle, filled with fear of the unknown. 

Most commonly, AD appears later in life. For this later onset version of the disease, symptoms often appear after an individual has passed the age of 65. However, earlier versions of the disease can develop as early as one’s mid-30s, increasing the likelihood of a genetic component.

As fear of AD strengthens, genetic testing can seem like a beacon of knowledge for those with a hereditary susceptibility to the disease. But while this information can be helpful for some, it is important to tread carefully.

Genetic testing can serve to provide an estimate of one’s risk level. However, while it can give insight into a person’s genes, it cannot accurately predict whether a person will develop the disease, either early or later in life. After receiving genetic testing, it’s crucial to seek the advice of trained medical specialists to help interpret and give advice on the results. 

Research also suggests that intellectual exercise may help maintain brain health and reduce the risk of developing AD. Simple exercises like puzzle solving, writing, or reading can help to strengthen the brain. Additionally, diet, activity level, and even social interaction have been connected with a decreased risk of cognitive ageing.

There are both hereditary and non-genetic factors that contribute to the complexity of AD. Risks are not limited to simple genetics but include things like diet, social interaction, exercise, and countless other factors. It is important to stay aware of your lifestyle choices to potentially reduce the risk of AD. These factors can also serve to maintain general brain health.

Additionally, access to genetic testing has increased, providing people with knowledge about their hereditary susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. Experts advise against overemphasising genetic test findings, though, as they can only offer an estimate of a person’s risk level and not tell with certainty if they will have Alzheimer’s disease.

Genetics plays a role in many factors of life, whether it is personality, physical appearance, health concerns, or countless other pieces of the puzzle. While scientists may not know exactly how genetics factors into the development of AD, utilising genetic testing can give a person a broader picture to help move forward. 

Those looking to reduce their risks of developing AD or allowing the disease to progress should work to maintain their cognitive health. Though-based activities including crossword puzzles or learning a new skill, can help strengthen the brain. It can be viewed similarly to physical therapy, if you strengthen this part of your body, it could have a better reaction to a future harmful disease.

Doctors, scientists, and geneticists continue to seek the full truth behind AD. In the meantime, cognitive efforts, genetic testing, and small lifestyle changes could make all the difference for those concerned about this debilitating disease. 

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.

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